At a recent event, a fellow small-town resident asked me, “Isn’t small towns dying just part of a natural progression?”
I said no. Here’s why.
We’ll always need small towns.
|Small towns combine natural resources
and supporting businesses.
1. Our security depends on small towns. Our nation needs a secure food supply, reliable production of natural resources, and controlled access to natural spaces for recreation. These resources exist primarily in rural areas. That means we need people living in small towns to produce our food, to produce a wide variety of natural resources and to protect and support recreation areas in natural settings.
2. We have the right to choose small towns. Some people will always choose to live, work and raise families in small towns. Every time I visit small towns, I keep running into people who have moved away from a big city to raise their children in the more stable small town environment.
The people who choose to live in small town deserve additional businesses and public services. The small town residents generate economic demand to support those business and services, and public support also comes into play. Because we will always need people to live in small towns to secure our nation, it makes sense to support quality small towns to serve their needs. The details of those policies are always a subject for debate.
Not every town will survive.
At the same time, some small towns are dying. Some are so small, they just don’t have the resources to start growing again. Some face environmental problems that will keep them from growing. Some are too busy fighting each other to tackle issues or take advantage of available resources or support.
In my part of Northwest Oklahoma, I’m seeing the smaller towns dwindling, while the bigger towns, of 5,000 to 10,000 and more in population, are growing. These “micropolitan” towns are big enough to offer more than just basic services, and can offer more amenities and better quality of life. Many have walkable downtown areas, significant arts projects, and other services that people appreciate.
So, yes, there is a natural progression towards the death of some small towns. Other small towns are destined for a different future.